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Parental Responsibilities

This post is a plea to white moms. The ones I wave to in the carpool line and serve with on the PTA. The ones I casually chat with at school orientation and in the stands at baseball. The one sitting next to me last week at the playground while we discussed affordable aftercare and food allergies. I know all parents have some parental duty that they hate. Many parents don't like diaper duty, or doctor's visits or PTA meetings. But we do it anyway. Most parents dread that nightmare-inducing birds and bees conversation. These are universal parental concerns that cross all class, race and gender divides. However as much, as I'd like to ignore it, there are certain parental responsibilities that are unique to me as the mother of  black boy.

All though our children live in the same neighborhood, have been classmates all their lives and play videogames and Little League together, they're not the same. Their experiences as they grow into young men will be vastly different. There are lessons we'll both try to teach our sons, but my son will always have an extra set of rules that will apply to him exclusively. While I stand in the playground watching my son play on the swings with yours, I realized in addition to teaching my son his ABC's, how to say please and thank you and how to look both ways before crossing the street, I also have to teach him how not to get killed by yours. Does this sound harsh? Are you shocked? Welcome to the world of black motherhood..

When your son starts venturing out on his own, even to the neighborhood store, I'm sure you'll worry. You'll worry about what if he gets lost, what if he gets hit by a car. I will too. As my son zips up the same school approved hoody sweatshirt they both wear, I'll wonder if his makes him look thuggish or threatening. I'll also wonder if some wanna-be in the neighborhood watch will kill my son as he walks home with his iced tea and candy. And so I'm afraid , and I'll teach him to be afraid. R.I.P Trayvon Martin.

When our boys start dating, we'll be nervous, we'll teach him how to be respectful and be a gentlemen and even to practice safe sex. While I'd love to tell him to feel free to date and to love across all  racial barriers, I'll be afraid that as he goes to shake hands  introduce himself to his white girlfriend's policeman father, he'll shoot him down in the street, while her policewoman mother watches from the car. So I'm afraid and I'll have to teach him to be afraid. R.I.P Jeremy Lake.

When our college bound sons are hanging out with their friends and see police approach, I'm sure although you've taught your son to be respectful of law enforcement as have I. Your son will barely notice the officers. Mine will instinctively feel fear and loathing. So I will teach my son to be respectful, to be afraid, to try to be invisible, because his very existence on any given street can be seen as threat. Unarmed and innocent and hands in the air, he could still lose his life. So I'm very afraid and he will be too. R.I.P Mike Brown.

You might read this and wonder "what can I do?" Or I'm not a racist and neither are my kids so this doesn't apply to me. But it does! There's so much you can do! You can talk to your children about race. Please none of that "everybody is equal" or "everyone should be treated the same" generic bullshit. That means nothing to a child, it means nothing to me either. I mean really talk to your kids.On average black families start talking to their kids about race around age 3, for white families age 13. Even then, they are pacified with generic platitudes of just treat everyone fairly, all the while being bombarded in the media with anti brown/black/gay/Jewish sentiment daily. That one MLK Day play they were in at school in the third grade is not the end if the race discussion.Talk to them about history and racism. Explain to them what discrimination is. Ask them questions about racism they may have seen themselves. Ask them how they feel about racism. Tell them what they can do to stop it. Don't tolerate racism from other relatives, many parents have a tendency to sit in uncomfortable silence at the Thanksgiving table while that one relative makes disparaging racist comments. They tell their children to ignore it, this translates to allow it. Teach your kids to stand up for what's right. Talk to them about Trayvon Martin, Jeremy Lake and Mike Brown. This is YOUR parental responsibility. You, my fellow carpool, PTA, soccer mom, yes you! I'm asking you to share the load, to share the responsibility of keeping my sons safe from yours.

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